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Roosevelt Roads Development Plan Is Finished… PR Not Included In Tax Reduction Bill… Over 17,000 Without Water Service… Strike Negotiators At Odds, IAU Official Pessimistic… Oquendo SEC Player Of The Week… General Strike Looms… Many Babies Born Drug Addicted… Puerto Ricans For PR Want Debate Spot… Berrios: PDP, NPP Plan Sales Tax

Roosevelt Roads Development Plan Is Finished

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – At a cost of $1 million, the government has finished the Land Reuse Plan for the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba, but execution of the plan remains uncertain.

The elections on Nov. 2 are approaching and there is no guarantee that the next governor will continue to implement the plan, Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra said Tuesday.

"He is not 100 percent obliged, but the new governor would have to return to square one on all this. Square one means going back to talk with the Navy, with the Offices of Economic Adjustments, and this I can assure will have a detrimental effect on time and economic impact," Segarra said.

Nevertheless, Segarra said the development of a transfer megaport as proposed by New Progressive candidate for governor Pedro Rossello "is not compatible" because of the large amount of land that must be conserved.

Also, he said, the communities of Ceiba and Naguabo, "did not show interest in 67 meetings we had with them in constructing an industrial port there."

"The uses proposed for the land at the former base are the result of the active participation of the communities of Ceiba and Naguabo, validated by market studies, infrastructure analysis and environmental evaluations," Segarra said at a press conference together with Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila.

He said, also, that the U.S. Army has not completed an environmental evaluation that should be finished by March 2005.

However, the Navy already approved the proposal of the present administration.

Segarra said the government prefers to wait for the environmental evaluation before accepting the transfer of land that will be island property.

"We want to be assured that we can tie up the environmental evaluation because it is very important we have a complete picture of all the contaminated areas on the base to be able to identify what must be done to remedy the situation, which is the Navy’s responsibility," Segarra said.

Transferred to the government of Puerto Rico "free of charge" will be the airport, the pier, the Veterans Clinic, the golf course, conservation areas, the fuel tanks and the administration also will transfer free of charge the scientific park and the university campus.

Of the 8,600 acres of the old military lands, the reuse plan approved by the U.S. Army calls for the conservation of 3,387 acres where there are swamps, habitats and "mogotes." Another 3,868 acres will be used for public and private development.

Puerto Rico Not Included In Tax Reduction Bill

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The bill reducing the tax rate for U.S. manufacturers excludes Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. territories before being signed by President George W. Bush.

Republican Sen. Don Nickles failed in his attempt to include Puerto Rico and the other territories in the legislation that reduces from 35 percent to 32 percent the tax rate on manufacturers.

Press reports said the U.S. Senate, in its final day of sessions before the Nov. 2 elections, also approved a project that assigns $14.5 billion for damages caused by the tropical storms and hurricanes that hit the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rican Department of Economic Development and the Office of the Resident Commissioner in Washington downplayed the importance of Puerto Rico being included, and said the majority of manufacturers here are incorporated in the United States as Foreign-Controlled Corporations, that reinvest their profits outside of the United States.

More Than 17,000 ASA Clients Without Water Service

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Some 17,822 clients of the southwest region of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) were without water service Monday, said the region’s ASA director, Juan Felipe Santos.

Santos, who office serves 20 municipalities in the southwest, said that of this figure, 14,397 did not have water because of alleged acts of sabotage by the Independent Authentic Union (IAU).

Santos said the towns that don’t have reliable water service are: Añasco, Ponce, Yauco, Orocovis, Adjuntas, Lajas and San Germán.

He said the main problems facing ASA are at the Loma Bonita filtration plants in Yauco, which have been closed.

Water Strike Negotiators Continue To Bicker

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The executive president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA), Jorge Rodriguez, Tuesday criticized a proposal by the leader of the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) to negotiate all the differences in the medical plan and 15 articles in the collective agreement on the same day.

Rodriguez said that if the substitution of the health plan with one administered by Triple S is the main reason for the IAU strike, they should finish discussions on that issue before continuing to negotiate the rest of the agreement.

"In one night you can not negotiate 15 clauses that are so wide-ranging. I said clearly one month ago, we are losing precious time talking about these clauses, and the health plan will be discussed in its time. Now, for the first time, we want to negotiate 15 clauses in one night. This is irresponsible, I am not going to do this," he said.

"I understand that the clauses can be discussed, but we have to return to them later, we have to return to work," Rodriguez said.

But IAU president Hector Rene Lugo said when the strike was declared last week, the union warned it would not end until the entire collective agreement was negotiated.

He also questioned Rodriguez’s capacity to negotiate, and said that on multiple occasions other unions similar to IAU have negotiated a complete collective agreement in one day.

"We are going to negotiate the 15 clauses and the health plan … I think that in one day we can negotiate the collective agreement," the union leader said.

Lugo rejected Rodriguez’s proposal to lift the strike as soon as the health plan issue is resolved, and discuss the remaining articles in a period not to exceed 30 days.

In Lugo’s judgment, the union does not have any "guarantee" or any "confidence" that the ASA will complete it in the proposed time.

Negotiations continued Tuesday afternoon between the IAU and the ASA at the Labor Department in Hato Rey.

The IAU called a strike Oct. 4 to protest a stall in negotiations of their collective agreement.

IAU Official Pessimistic About Ending Strike

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The spokesman for the negotiating committee of the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA), Juan Ramos, expressed pessimism about the possible end of the strike as negotiations were set to continue Tuesday afternoon.

Ramos railed against company management, saying there is a lack of will to end the conflict, which on Tuesday entered its ninth day.

"I want to say to the people of Puerto Rico that today the strike will end, but I can not lie. My position, and hear me clearly, is that there is not the will to end the negotiation…We are going to be positive, but it does not seem to us that the other party wants to be," Ramos said in a radio interview.

After former Blue Cross president José Julián Álvarez on Monday said he would agree to administrate the union’s health plan, the IAU and the ASA decided to meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Labor Department to clarify differences about the composition of the board of directors of the plan and 15 other articles in the collective agreement.

Also Tuesday, at 8:30 a.m., it was expected that the hearing at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner would continue, about possible irregularities in the management of funds in the health plan administrated by the IAU which caused the ASA to cancel its contributions and switch to private Triple S.

This decision has been the main sticking point in the dispute over the new collective agreement between IAU and ASA and caused the union to declare a strike on Oct. 4.

Oquendo Named AVCA And SEC Player Of The Week

October 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Official College Sports Network via M2 Communications Limited. All rights reserved. 

Oct. 11, 2004 ATHENS, Ga. ----Georgia junior Alexandra Oquendo was named the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday thanks to her NCAA record .778 hitting percentage on 35 kills, no errors and 45 attempts Friday against Kentucky.

The national honor is the first for Oquendo and the third for a Georgia player.

Oquendo's conference award is her second of the year and third of her career.

The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native helped lead the Bulldogs (10-5, 3-3) to a 1-1 record in SEC play last week.

"What I'm most impressed with is how smart she played (on Friday)," said Georgia head coach Mary Buczek. "She attacked the angles and went off-speed on them. She's a smart hitter and is getting better every match."

Oquendo is currently second in the league with a .411 overall hitting percentage, third in kills per game at 4.43 and fourth in blocks per game with 1.33.

General Strike Looms If IAU, ASA Conflict Not Resolved

October 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Fifty-seven unions left the door open to declaring a general strike after meeting Sunday to show their support for the work stoppage by the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA).

According to press reports, representatives and delegates from 57 local unions, which together have more than 50,000 members, met for a permanent session that will allow them to gather and agree on group actions when it is deemed necessary.

"We are meeting about the group actions that we have agreed on," said the president of the "Central Puertorriqueña de Trabajadores," Victor Villalba. "This is to say that at any moment we will be ready" he said.

Villalba said the group is constantly monitoring developments in the conflict between IAU and ASA, but that "if it is not to our satisfaction we are evaluating an order of general strike."

Alarming Number Of Babies Born In PR Addicted To Drugs

October 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Although official statistics do not exist, it is estimated that 500 babies annually are born on the island with "withdrawal symptoms," and have to break a dependence on drugs passed to them through addicted mothers.

Infants with this condition are babies born addicted because their mothers take drugs – heroin, crack, cocaine and/or alcohol – during pregnancy and as soon as they are born they must go through detoxification.

Dr. Marta Varcárcel, director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the "Hospital Pediátrico de Centro Médico" said that in Puerto Rico each year approximately 500 babies are born with this condition.

Valcárcel, who has 30 years of experience, said infants suffer for days to break the vice.

"It makes me shudder," the doctor said.

She said that when children of addicted mothers first open their eyes, they suffere from an insatiable hunger that is heightened because they are unable to suck. But when they learn, they eat between three and four ounces of milk each hour. They tremble, convulse and shake with involuntary movements and are connected to machines that monitor their heart and blood pressure.

"Babies of mothers addicted to heroin and crack will have problems with psychomotor and psychosocial development," said Carmen Maldonado Vlaar, and neuropharmacologist and head of the biology department at the University of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans For Puerto Rico Want A Spot In Next Debate

October 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Environmental leader Rogelio Figueroa on Monday called for the organizers of the final debate between the candidates for governor registered by the State Election Commission to include him as a participant.

Figueroa, who is an independent candidate, was not invited to participate in the debate last month, which was shown on Televicentro.

The president of Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico called for his inclusion in the next debate, which will be Oct. 21 at Telemundo studios.

"I think this is a learning process. The press must understand that democracy is further away from the three political parties and covers other options and other candidates. All the alternatives are important, it doesn’t matter if they are small or new," Figueroa said in a television interview.

Berrios Insists PDP, NPP Both Plan To Impose Sales Tax

October 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) insisted Monday that the Popular candidate for governor plans to impose a sales tax after the November elections as much as the New Progressive candidate does.

PIP gubernatorial candidate Ruben Berrios said that both of his opponents intend to hide these plans from the island.

"The New Progressive Party in its almost secret program announces a sales tax, while the Popular Democratic Party has to design an added-value tax which it hopes to hide," he said at a press conference.

"Both (NPP candidate Pedro Rossello and PDP candidate Aníbal Acevedo Vila) are blatant enough in their intent to lie to the people before the elections," he added. Berrios was joined at the press conference by Independent candidate for resident commissioner, Edwin Irizarry Mora, and economist Francisco Catala.

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